How to swim boldly through the remainder of 2023 like a sharkHave your New Year’s resolutions already fallen flat? Walter Bond says thinking like a shark can help you recalibrate and get back on track. It’s not too late to create a balanced, purposeful, and goal-oriented 2023.
Hoboken, NJ (February 2023)—If you’re like 80 percent of Americans who made New Year’s resolutions, your well-intentioned goals fell by the wayside during the dark, cold weeks of January. Only one month into 2023, and you’re already beating yourself up about the exercise you didn’t do, the work projects you didn’t volunteer for, the money you didn’t save, and the relationships you didn’t prioritize.
If this sounds depressingly familiar, NBA player and Hall of Fame motivational speaker Walter Bond has a welcome message: You are not your past mistakes. What’s more, it’s never too late to recalibrate and go after your goals. By adopting an unexpected “spirit animal”—the shark—you can make the most of the remaining 11 months.
“No matter what the date on the calendar is, you won’t get far on your resolutions without a mindset that encourages achievement,” says Bond, author of Swim!: How a Shark, a Suckerfish, and a Parasite Teach You Leadership, Mentoring, & Next Level Success (Wiley, 2019, ISBN: 978-1-119-57356-2, $24.00). “I learned that lesson early as an aspiring NBA player, and it has served me well since. In basketball and in life, you must become an impact player mentally before you can begin to build outward success.”
What does all of this have to do with sharks? Far from the bloodthirsty, brutish predators they’re made out to be, Bond says sharks are purposeful, adaptable, and smart creatures who cultivate mutually beneficial relationships with other fish. Sharks have a lot to teach us about remaining focused on what’s important while staying flexible in the face of changing conditions.
In Swim!, Bond uses an engaging business fable to teach his “Sacred Six” principles based on the behaviors of sharks. Readers learn that “big fish” stay focused on the future, constantly seek out self-improvement, admit their mistakes, readily adapt to changes around them, and more.
Here, Bond shares seven things you can do to adopt a shark-like mindset (and reconnect with your resolutions!) as you swim toward 2023’s goals.
Adopting A Shark-Like Mindset
First, resolve to not let your past mistakes overshadow the rest of the year. When sharks swim, they look ahead and up, not at what’s behind them. They don’t mope about “the one that got away”—they look for the next opportunity to eat. That’s an important lesson to take into February and beyond, especially if your January review is causing regret, guilt, and self-recrimination.
“As we move further into 2023, you may have to deal with the consequences of bad decisions you’ve already made, but understand this: You are not your past mistakes,” says Bond. “If you make a mistake once, it’s a lesson. If you make the same one twice, it’s a choice. You have the power to choose purposeful growth and progress instead. It may help to formulate a strategy to help you ‘look forward’ like a shark and refocus your thoughts when you feel caught in self-blame. This might be a mantra, conscious breathing, taking a walk outside, or calling a trusted friend.”
Be realistic about what’s ahead in 2023… When a storm or hurricane approaches, many sharks attempt to leave its path or choose to dive into deeper—and calmer—waters. Likewise, Bond urges you to develop a shark-like respect for your environment.
“Set yourself up for success by aligning your resolutions with your current reality,” says Bond. “For instance, if you’re enrolled in night classes that are taking up a lot of your time, this probably isn’t the time to learn a new language. Unrealistic expectations inevitably increase your stress and disappointment when they don’t pan out as you’d hoped.”
…And be discerning about what you resolve to accomplish. Despite their reputation as bloodthirsty predators, sharks don’t mindlessly attack every creature they encounter. They’re actually quite discerning, waiting for prey they really want. Similarly, think critically about how you want to spend your time, energy, and money over the next 11 months.
“It’s normal to get fired up by a ‘New Year, New You’ mindset—but more isn’t necessarily better,” comments Bond. “Even activities and accomplishments that truly bring you joy can be detrimental if you’re exceeding your mental, physical, or financial bandwidth.”
No matter what, keep moving forward. Some species of sharks need to keep water flowing through their gills to avoid drowning, which means they can’t stop—and they certainly can’t swim backward. They seek progress at all times. So should we.
“Be honest: How many of your past regrets hinge on something you didn’t do instead of something you did?” asks Bond. “Staying where you are—and waiting to recycle your resolutions in 2023—is tempting because it can feel like the safest option, but in reality you’re stagnating. It may help to embrace the concept of ‘failing forward,’ or using any mistakes you might make as lessons and stepping stones. Just as forward movement literally gives sharks life, the progress you make will infuse you with renewed motivation, passion, and the courage to keep swimming.”
Use your shark-like reflexes to adapt to your changing environment. Sharks are highly adaptable. They can survive in warm or cool temperatures, swim in shallow or deep water, and eat many different types of prey depending on what’s available. While your survival might not depend on your ability to adapt, your ability to achieve your goals very well might.
“If your resolution was to hit the gym five times a week, but you dropped it because you weren’t around for your kids as much, it’s fine to change things up,” says Bond. “Do a few exercise videos at home or hike with your kids on the weekend. At the end of the day, you’re still moving your body and working toward your fitness goals.”
Find another shark to help you navigate the rest of the year. Sharks don’t typically perceive other sharks as threats, and they seldom attack one another. Some even work together when hunting. In other words, there’s room in the “ocean” for multiple leaders, mentors, and success stories—no need to feel threatened or intimidated by another’s accomplishments or position. Instead, strive to recognize the value that others bring to your team—and enlist their help when possible.
“A lot of New Year’s resolutions fail, not because people don’t try their best, but because they lack essential support,” says Bond. “Look around you for others who are getting it done as well as—or better than!—you are. You can identify the ‘sharks’ in your own life not just by their job titles or notoriety, but by looking at their character, work ethic, and values. Pay special attention to sharks who influence others by proactively recognizing and coaching them.”
Remember that every day of the journey is important. Some species of sharks migrate hundreds or even thousands of miles each year. They may be traveling to a certain place to mate or give birth, but those events take up only a small percentage of the shark’s overall year—and they are the culmination of many hours of swimming, hunting, and surviving the elements. The lesson: Don’t get so focused on your goal that you forget how important each day’s effort is.
“When I was a college athlete, my coach would say, ‘I see you’ve been working,’” says Bond. “That phrase changed my life. At the time, it got me fired up for all of the practice, drills, and workouts I had to do. But looking back, I can see how deeply my coach’s words impacted my motivation, confidence, and pride—all of which contributed to my performance on game day.”
“We all have regrets and disappointments, and during the dark, cold days of winter it’s especially easy to let ourselves wallow in them—but I want you to resist that impulse,” concludes Bond. “Instead, focus on getting your mind primed for success in the remaining 11 months of 2023. No matter what your resolutions are, these shark-like habits will help propel you forward through 2023’s waters—whether they’re calm or turbulent.”
About the Author
Walter Bond is the author of Swim!: How a Shark, a Suckerfish, and a Parasite Teach You Leadership, Mentoring, & Next Level Success. Walter is also a renowned business coach, motivational speaker, and former NBA player. His time in the NBA taught him the fundamentals every team needs to be successful, and today he shares his knowledge with global audiences to help entrepreneurs, business leaders, sales teams, and employees get to the next level. Walter has keynoted conferences in numerous countries for brands such as 3M, Hilton, and Allianz.
For more information, please visit www.walterbond.com.
About the Book
Swim!: How a Shark, a Suckerfish, and a Parasite Teach You Leadership, Mentoring, & Next Level Success (Wiley, 2019, ISBN: 978-1-119-57356-2, $24.00) is available at bookstores nationwide, from major online booksellers, and at www.walterbond.com.